COLOMBO: Apparently in view of the strategic importance of Sri Lanka in the context of the increasing influence of China on it, and the existence of strong ties with Pakistan, India has beefed up the Defence Ministry’s representation at the Indian High Commission here.
Col Gurinder S Klaire has been appointed as Deputy Defence Advisor to assist Defence Advisor Capt Prakash Gopalan. With this, for the first time, there is an army man in the Defence wing of the mission. Traditionally, Defence Advisors in the Colombo mission have been only from the navy.
Sri Lanka has lately seen high profile military leaders from China, Pakistan and India visiting it. In May this year came General Xu Qiliang, Vice Chairman of the Central Military Commission of the Communist Party of China (CPC), and the commander of the People’s Liberation Army Air Force from 2007 to 2012.
Also in May, came the Chief of Staff of the Chinese People’s Armed Police, Lt Gen Niu Zhizong. Gen Niu requested the Lankan Army Commander Lt Gen Daya Ratnayake to send the “maximum number” of officers to China for training in anti-terrorism.
The visit of high level delegations from China coincided with the discovery that Lanka had entered into a contract with a Chinese government company to build an aircraft repair and maintenance facility at Trincomalee for its air force. This led to concern in New Delhi as it impinged on the 1987 India-Sri Lanka Accord regarding the military use of Trincomalee.
Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj had enquired about it from her Lankan counterpart, GL Peiris, when the latter met her in New Delhi recently. Subsequently, Peiris told the parliament that the location of the facility had not been decided. In April, Pakistan’s Chairman Joint Chief of Staff Committee, General Rashad Mahmood, visited Lanka.
There were visits from India too. In December 2012, the then Army Chief, Gen Bikram Singh, was in Lanka. In July this year came the Air Force Chief, Air Chief Marshal Arup Raha. ACM Raha and Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa discussed the possibility of holding joint air exercises. It is learnt that India’s National Security Advisor, Ajit Kumar Doval, will be participating in the Lankan Defence Ministry’s prestigious ‘Galle Maritime Dialogue’ in November.